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War-Journal of Bue Geirsteinson - Part XII

by Jacob Skytte

Vatermont 25th continued, the year 1000 After Crowning of the First Emperor of the Thyatian Empire

Several men moved to intercept my charge at my father, and I was soon caught up in the battle. As my own army clashed with my father's men, I was left facing a single opponent, a warrior I knew by appearance, but thankfully had never spoken to. It was not his face I saw, but my father's, as I struck at him with my war hammer, his blows easily deflected by my shield. I put him down with a blow to his head and attempted to move closer to my father.

Catching sight of him I was momentarily stunned. His sword was a blur as he swung it in tight arcs, dispatching any man that dared come close to him. With a furious strike he disarmed one opponent, parrying another attack with his shield, then beheaded his disarmed opponent, as he seemed to dance out of the way of another attacker. Several men already lay dead or dying around him. It was evident that his years of experience raiding far-away nations had turned him into an extremely deadly warrior.

Another man threw himself at me and again I was forced to strike down a fellow clansman. His spear caught me in the ribs, but the enchanted metal scales turned it aside. He fell before me, another face added to my shame.

In the midst of the chaos, I saw Asta Katlasdottir reach my father. She was one of the few who dared confront him by now. Her sword was a graceful blade, unlike the heavy swords favoured by most karls. Their weapons clashed and Asta was forced back by my father's strength. She quickly recovered and dodged his next blow. Her sword connected with my father's shoulder, but he ignored the wound, kicking her legs away from under her, and she fell to the ground, her sword flying from her grip.

I screamed as I saw my father thrust his sword into the brave young woman at his feet. Her face was a mask of pain as his sword pierced her. I shoved a man out of the way and yelled words at my father that I can no longer recall. He turned to watch me, a wild grin on his face. In my hate and anger I released the war hammer I held, flinging it at him. I saw his surprise just a split second before the hammer hit him in the face. He stumbled backwards, blood flying in an arc as his hands reached for his face, his shield getting in the way.

My heart pounding loudly in my ears, I pushed my way past the men around me, none of them striking at me. Asta's eyes were closed, one hand clutching the wound in her belly, the other reaching out for somebody to help her, it seemed to me. She lay still, unconscious or dead. I picked up her sword, the unfamiliar weapon feeling awkward in my hand. I was surprised at how light it was, as I raised it to strike my father. He must have sensed me. At the last instant he flailed his shield at me, the sword deflected by the edge of the shield.

Geirstein's face was a bloody mess, his nose broken by the hammer. Tears of pain were in his eyes, but still they regarded me with hatred and defiance. Again I struck at him with the sword, but again his shield turned it aside. My lack of skill with the sword hindered me. He took advantage of this, stepping towards me, using his shield to prevent me from getting the sword up and threw himself at me. I tripped and we fell to the ground, my father above me, pinning me with his shield. Blood from his broken nose fell on my face as he leaned in.

"Now, treacherous son, I will claim the blood I gave to you. You owe your life to me and now I will take it." He had pulled a dagger from somewhere and he raised it to strike at my face. I struggled to free my arms, but they were pinned underneath his shield. He suddenly looked back in surprise. My gaze followed his. Asta wasn't dead yet, and she had reached out to grip his ankle. Her face was pained, but she held on tight and mumbled something. A flash of light emanated from a ring she bore, which she had pressed to my father's ankle.

My father twisted his body, kicking Asta in the face, and she gave a yelp, rolling away from him. He turned to me again, the dagger rising. His victorious grin suddenly turned to surprise and again he looked back. He started screaming, dropping the dagger and I pushed him off me. His body was undergoing convulsions, his legs twisting impossibly. As I watched him, incredulous, his back seemed to bend over at an impossible angle, his arms twisted and his face seemed to rearrange itself. He gradually shrunk and turned into a beast-thing that writhed about, reddish fur starting to grow from his skin. Soon he turned into a recognisable shape, my father had been turned into a fox! The fox watched me, a wary look in its eyes, then took in the men around it and broke into a frenzied run straight through the broken gates, disappearing into the woods.

The fighting had ceased completely. Men were staring at the woods, where the fox had fled, others staring at me and a fair amount staring at Asta Katlasdottir's unconscious body, fear and loathing written on their faces. I hurried to her side. She was bleeding heavily and I pulled her chain mail and shirt from her stomach, exposing an ugly wound. I called for somebody to help me, but none of the men were willing. My cursing had no effect, but finally Ingibjorg and Ralf Silk-Tongue made their way to my side.

"It's a wicked wound," Ingbjorg said. "I fear she is not long for this world."

"Do something, Ralf!" I growled at the skald. "Beseech the Gods for the powers of healing and save her life as you saved mine."

He looked at me wearily. "The Gods do not grant their favour lightly, lad. I have spent the power granted me for today in saving you. I will pray over her and ask for the favour of the Gods, but if she does not live through the day, then it wasn't meant to be."

"Her foul sorcery has doomed her!" somebody yelled.

"The Gods won't aid a witch!" another fell in.

"You be quiet!" I barked at them. "She has saved my life and I will do all within my power to save hers! Stay back if you wish, but do not sully the name of this brave woman, who faced a foe you shrank from."

There was disgruntled mumblings but the men started tending to their injuries and separating the dead from the wounded. I did all that I could for Asta with the aid of Ingibjorg and Ralf. Ingibjorg was uncharacteristically grim and quiet, apparently worried about her friend. All we could do was wait.